Step Into The Program: People Under The Stairs Deliver Feel-Good Summer Jams

Los AngelesPeople Under The Stairs‘ 12 Step Program is one funky collection of songs about love, redemption, and long nights. The grooves are as smooth as the crisp sound of waves crashing at the beach, and the coolness hitting your toes at the shore on a hot summer day in July. If hip hop had of evolved along the path more akin to artists like Earth, Wind and Fire, and George Clinton, with heavy golden age nineties influence like Fresh Prince (with ample spins reminiscent of Jazzy Jeff), EPMD, and De La Soul, then this is what would be infusing radios and boom boxes today if there were an era frozen in a time too good to let go. Let the good times roll, because People Under The Stairs need much more respect than they get: this duo composed of Christopher Portugal (Thes One) and Michael Turner (Double K) is one of the absolute greatest hip hop tandems of all time. Yes, it needed to be said.

There’s been a famine in good hip hop over the last ten years, and no rain storm can remedy the lacking. But with this 12 Step Program, the pain and tension is eased gradually. There’s plenty of homage, with references arranged in obscure vintage samples in “Pictures On My Wall” that feels like a hip hop overture (a stylistic move that is sorely missed in many of today’s compositions), a classic Busta Rhymes sample in “Roundabouts“, and a more contemporary Kendrick Lamar borrowing in “Umbrellas“. The Bell Biv Devoe “Poison sample at the end of “Get Hip” is intoxicatingly sultry.

The album, as tranquil as it already is, has fluid, creamy transitions between each song. The songs build momentum within themselves, and then slow down to a mellow breeze, which makes the meat of the middle of the songs feel like they pass by way too fast to grab hold. The replay value is immense as a result. Absorb it, then let it marinate in mind, and prepare for the following song, which typically follows the same suit. The rise and fall feels like there’s an scenic act structure lodged inside. It’s broken temporarily with a b-boy anthem in “Ste. for Reefer“, a seven-minute-long live band lenient excursion that is a departure from the sample heavy precedents set prior. It could easily be the perfect song to play at a barbecue, after Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up of course.

It’s been far too long that a hip hop album bled summertime at this magnitude like this project does. 12 Step Program is one of those records that should remain permanently in the car’s deck. You only live once, as the anthem-worthy and Legend of Zelda sample-friendly “1 Up Til Sun Up” informs, so there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be part of everyone’s collection—even those who aren’t fans of hip hop.

1 Comment

  1. Katie Antonsson

    July 22, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Luuuuurve People Under The Stairs. I’ve always liked West Coast hip hop better than East 🙂

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